As we approach summer more people are thinking of visiting the beach. I work in the Data, Mapping, Modelling and Information team at the Environment Agency. Over the last few months I've been preparing our improved website that will present the results from our bathing water testing.
The results for 2014 were the best ever recorded, with 99.5% of bathing waters passing.
However, 2015 is the first year of a new EU directive that aims to improve our bathing waters even more. The tests for water quality are now around twice as strict.
To coincide with this change, I've been working on a new and updated Bathing Water Explorer website and interactive tool. The site and its data are important because they help people make decisions about whether to go swimming.
When you visit the website you can search or click on the map and find out lots of information about not just the results but the work being done to improve water quality.
All this information is useful to organisations such as local councils, water companies, farmers, local businesses, local communities, NGOs and people who regularly go out in the water. Everyone can view and use the latest results so they can take action to reduce pollution and improve bathing water quality.
The data shown on the site is available as open data, which means anyone can use it without restriction.
It is important to me that the changes made to the website are improvements for the website's users. So over the winter I worked with colleagues and talked to members of the public and organisations that use our data to get their thoughts and understand what they need. All these needs were fed into the new design.
People told us the most important thing they wanted to know was the latest situation at a beach or bathing water. So we have changed the site so that any warnings about today's water quality are most prominent. This is followed by the latest sample results, the annual classifications and background information.
We want people to have access to the latest bathing water quality results so they can make informed decisions. We have also developed a ‘widget’ so the scorecard for water quality at a specific beach can be embedded into any other webpage and it then updates automatically.
If your organisation is also interested in protecting our beaches and improving water quality or just raising awareness you can add the live link easily be following our simple instructions.
I am very proud of the new system and hope it will be useful to beach goers and the people managing and improving bathing water quality around the country.
Tom Guilbert is a member of the Data, Mapping, Modelling and Information team.